Columbus Blue Jackets Lack Of Firepower On Display In 3-0 Loss To Montreal Canadiens

By Dan Dukart on March 14, 2024 at 1:45 pm
Montreal Canadiens goalie Cayden Primeau salutes the crowd after his shutout
David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets' lack of offensive firepower was on full display in a 3-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.

It was an instance where the eye test did not necessarily align with the analytics. NaturalStatTrick reported that the Blue Jackets generated 19 high-danger scoring chances, including 8 on the power play. They also suggested that the Blue Jackets had an 'expected goals' of 5.01. I must have missed those 8 high-danger power play opportunities while I was going to get a pop from the fridge. 

But that's where the data fails to capture the reality of the situation. Shot attempts ≠ scoring chances. A lineup missing forward regulars Adam Fantilli, Kent Johnson, Patrik Laine, Justin Danforth, and Kirill Marchenko - yes, that's literally half of a forward lineup - was replaced by mostly AHL players. But the player data tracking doesn't reflect that. 

Johnny Gaudreau played mostly alongside Boone Jenner and Alex Nylander, who was promoted when yet another forward, Yegor Chinakhov, went down with an injury. All due respect to Jenner and Nylander, that has to be one of the weakest first lines the NHL has to offer this year (Worth adding is that Jenner played 25:48, a staggering number). Even the defacto second line of Cole Sillinger, Alexandre Texier, and Trey Fix-Wolansky reads closer to a fourth line than a second. So a short-handed roster played shorter-handed and failed to materialize goals.

Much of the energy around the postgame was centered on the poor start by Elvis Merzlikins, and for good reason. But what was lost in the shuffle is that the poor start - spotting an NHL team a 3-0 lead - is completely magnified when the roster that is attempting the comeback is, shall we say, offensively challenged.

Yes, the Blue Jackets had the majority of the shot attempts the rest of the game. Score effects certainly contributed to this. But to say that the Blue Jackets 'deserved to win' is disingenuous. 

The path doesn't get any easier. Chinakhov is day-to-day, and Sean Kuraly was injured in this game as well. Mikael Pyyhtia was just added on emergency recall from Cleveland. He has posted 7-20-27 in 57 AHL games this season. Put another way, reinforcements may be on the way, but those reinforcements are coming from Cleveland for a reason. Good news: there are only 17 games left this season.